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Kamunhukamwe leads Eagles to Pro50 title

Mashonaland Eagles 203 for 8 (Kamunhukamwe 73, Chakabva 38*, Ndlovu 3-23) beat Matabeleland Tuskers 202(Masuku 67, Mambo 2-36) by two wickets

EAGLES are Zimbabwe’s national one-day champions after a narrow two-wicket victory over Tuskers in the Pro50 Championship final played at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.

Chasing Tuskers’ sub-par 202, Eagles were given a rapid start by Tinashe Kamunhukamwe’s boundary-laden 73, but it was the cool head of Regis Chakabva which got them over the line after Tuskers’ bowlers kept their team in the game until the very end.

Kamunhukamwe and Cephas Zhuwao are one of the more destructive opening pairs in local cricket, but Chris Mpofu’s response to the menace of Zhuwao was to dig the ball and push him back with pace and bounce. Charlton Tshuma did even better, getting a length delivery to nip in and take the inside edge of Zhuwao’s swiping bat on its way through to the keeper.

Kamunhukamwe, however, soon began to make up for the loss of his senior partner. He played some dazzling strokes, the pick of the bunch being an inside-out six over cover off Tshuma, and brought up a 30-ball fifty by lofting Ernest Masuku over long on in the 10th over.

Kamunhukamwe ensured that Eagles took 80 from the Powerplay, and they were well placed before Ainsley Ndlovu snapped up three wickets in the space of seven deliveries after the drinks break. Those dismissals included that of a tiring Kamunhukamwe, who missed a sweep to be trapped in front for 73. With Elton Chigumbura soon run out as a result of a calling mix-up with Chakabva, Eagles were 138 for 6 in the 23rd over and the match was back in the balance.

Eagles were in even more trouble at 155 for 6 when Patrick Mambo feathered an edge into the wicketkeeper’s gloves off Sean Williams, and with only the tail for company, the chase now rested entirely upon Chakabva. Runs came in ones and twos amid great tension, Tuskers’ attack keeping things tight and the batsmen unwilling to take any risks.

After 10 overs together, Chakabva and Tapiwa Mufudza had put on 20 runs safely and taken the score to 175 with 28 still needed. Their first boundary came a few balls later, as Chakabva cracked a short ball from Masuku through the covers for four. Two overs later, he drove the same bowler wide of mid-on for another boundary.

With just six needed for victory, the tension had all but dissipated but an overeager Mufudza then went for a big drive and sliced a leading edge to Tshuma at point to be caught for 17. Chakabva and No. 10 Daniel Jakiel scrambled to take five runs from the next two overs, and Chakabva then clipped Masuku through square leg for the quick single that sealed the title for Eagles.

While Masuku didn’t have a good day with the ball, giving away 62 runs in 8.1 overs, his fighting fifty earlier in the day had helped Tuskers to limp past 200.

On a hot and largely sunny morning, Eagles, as they almost invariably seem to do on their home ground, won the toss and sent Tuskers in to bat on a good-looking pitch. After an hour and a half of play, the match seemed as good as over, with Tuskers floundering at 102 for 6 with all their specialist batsmen gone.

The trouble started early as Brian Chari chopped Richard Ngarava’s fourth ball on to his own stumps and Jakiel trapped Ncube lbw in the sixth over. Williams then joined the in-form Craig Ervine at the crease. Ervine made back-to-back unbeaten hundreds in the lead-up to this match, but his dismissal was a soft one, the left hander dabbing a ball from Mambo straight to slip. Just as the partnership between Williams and Charles Kunje was beginning to develop, Williams slashed at a ball from Chamu Chibhabha well outside his off stump and was caught at the wicket. Tuskers were now 88 for 4.

Tendai Maruma then fell in embarrassing fashion, letting a ball from Chibhabha through to the keeper standing back, and then thoughtlessly taking a step out of his crease, only for the alert Richmond Mutumbami to throw the stumps down and reduce Tuskers to 91 for 5 in the 18th over. When Kunje was trapped lbw for 31, Tuskers were six down and sinking fast.

But Masuku started to turn things around with Chris Mpofu for company. While Mpofu blocked resolutely, Masuku brought up a 60-ball fifty – his first for Tuskers – and added 82 with Mpofu before he was run out taking a risky second run in the 42nd over. The end came quickly for Tuskers thereafter, and John Nyumbu was the last man out when he holed out to long off at the start of the 46th over.

Had they been able to bat through their innings, Tuskers might have found enough runs to put Eagles under serious pressure, but they were always the underdogs for this match, having only three victories against two defeats behind them compared to Eagles’ five victories out of five. In the event, they did well to push Eagles so hard, but the hosts had enough in the tank to raise the title later in the afternoon. — ESPNcricinfo

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